Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 22:57
Chugiak’s Brittain family (clockwise from top left) Jaxson, Clint, Heidi and Madisyn. Both Brittain children were born with irregular hearts, and both are healthy today thanks to heart surgery. The family’s “Team Maddy and Jax” — made up of themselves, their family and friends — raised more than $1,200 for the American Heart Association’s Alaska Heart Run April 28.

To see her splashing energetically in the springtime mud outside her parents’ Chugiak home, you’d never guess that the ball of energy and mischief called Madisyn Brittain was once a frail infant whose survival was very much in doubt.

“She was basically dying,” said Madisyn’s mom, Heidi.

Dad Clint Brittain said his first child struggled to flourish in the first months after he and his wife brought Madisyn home from the hospital.

“At 3 months she was three ounces lighter than when she was born,” he said.

That’s when doctors discovered Madisyn was born with a condition called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), in which a fetal blood vessel in a baby’s heart fails to close.

“She had a hole in her heart,” Heidi Brittain recalled.

After hearing the news, Clint raced home from his job on the North Slope as his daughter was rushed into surgery.

“It was about a 48-hour ordeal,” Clint said.

Because of his work schedule, he said he’d only gotten to see his daughter off-and-on during her first three months of life. Having such a close call hit him hard.

“It really kinda puts things in perspective,” he said.

Following surgery, Madisyn immediately began to put on weight, and today she’s a rambunctious 4-year-old who loves to play outdoors, where attacking mud puddles is a specialty.

But that’s not the end of the Brittains’ story.

When Madisyn’s younger brother, Jaxson, was born 18 months ago, he showed none of the same symptoms his sister had. But when Heidi took her son in for a check-up recently, doctors discovered he, too, had been born with PDA.

“It was almost the exact same thing,” she said.

Jaxson was operated on in mid-April, and now he has a normal, healthy heart.

Healthy enough to keep both parents scrambling after him constantly, and healthy enough to take part in the annual Anchorage Heart Run on Saturday, April 28 in Anchorage.

The entire Brittain family walked in the race (the largest footrace in Alaska) this year, part of “Team Maddy and Jax.” And they weren’t alone. Heidi Brittain was able to recruit a team of 27 members who raised more than $1,200 for the American Heart Association fundraiser — which attracted more than 5,000 participants this year. The team’s donation helped the event raise more than $200,000, according to the race website.

After Madisyn’s surgery, Heidi said she jumped at the chance to help raise money for cardiac health.

“We’ve done it every year since,” she said.

Even though her two children are now healthy, she said the family will continue to support an organization that’s become so near to their hearts.

“If we can raise money for a great cause, than we definitely want to help,” she said.


Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or [email protected]


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